Facile path for copper recovery from waste printed circuit boards via mechanochemical approach

Kang Liu, Mengmeng Wang, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Lili Liu, Quanyin Tan, Jinhui Li

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Recycling copper (Cu0) from waste printed circuit boards (PCBs) is a prevalent challenge. Here, we propose a new pathway and reveal mechanisms for recovering Cu0 from waste PCBs via a mechanochemical approach. The successful application of mechanical force avoids using inorganic acid in the Cu0 recovery process. Our work demonstrates that ferric chloride (FeCl3) was superior to ferric sulfate and ferric nitrate as a solid-phase reagent for Cu0 recovery due to chloride complexation. Under the induction of mechanical force, the Cu0 in the waste PCBs was oxidized by Fe3+ and complexed by Cl¯ to form a meta-stable cuprous chloride, which was susceptible to leaching in an acidic liquid-phase system constructed by hydrolysis of ferric salt. Further mechanism analysis reveals that in the mechanochemical solid-phase reaction, Cu0, metallic impurities, metal oxides, and carbon materials from waste PCBs could also reduce Fe3+ to Fe2+. The optimum conditions for Cu0 recovery from waste PCB powder with FeCl3 as a solid-phase reagent were: rotational speed of 500 rpm, Cu0:Fe3+ molar ratio of 1:20, and reaction time of 120 min, achieving the highest recovery of 99.6 wt%. This study presents a facile path for Cu0 recovery from waste PCBs for resource circulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129638
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2022


  • Copper recovery
  • Ferric salt
  • Mechanochemical reaction
  • Sustainable waste recycling
  • Waste PCBs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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